Photo: Televisa News
The plenary session of the 8th Summit of the Americas focused a good deal of the discussion on the Venezuelan crisis. Most of the 33 attending countries agreed on calling the government of Venezuela to allow the access of aid to relieve the humanitarian crisis. They didn’t agree on including their collective disregard for May 20 elections in the final declaration of the summit; however, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra proclaimed the summit a success and sealed his satisfaction for the consensus about the Lima Commitment, a declaration acclaimed by all that urges countries to take concrete actions against corruption, the summit’s main topic. At the plenary, heads of state condemned the murder of the three Ecuadorian journalists and deplored the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, expressing their support for the actions of the U.S., France and the United Kingdom.
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said that in Venezuela “democracy has collapsed into dictatorship and tyranny” and that it’s outrageous that Nicolás blocks the access of humanitarian aid. He added that this is a failed State and our economic collapse is affecting other economies. Pence called for more sanctions and more diplomatic pressure to “isolate” the regime. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged countries allied with Nicolás’ “murderous and authoritarian regime” to help fight for democracy, thinking of the Venezuelan people. Argentine President Mauricio Macri said that they won’t recognize the elections and that the countries of the region must “redouble their efforts to force the Venezuelan government to stop denying reality and to accept regional collaboration and international aid.” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that his government will be relentless with Nicolás’ “oppressive regime,” adding that he’ll continue to help the citizens who are “starving to death.” Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said that there’s “no branch autonomy, respect for human rights or democracy” here, that we lack independent powers but we do have political prisoners; stating that “no country that truly supports democracy should recognize these elections.”
Requests without compromise
Enrique Peña Nieto asked for a swift and peaceful solution to the crisis and said that Mexico hopes that we’ll be able to achieve that solution by ourselves. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela cautioned that there could be a mass exodus if the crisis intensifies, demanding a peaceful solution. Sadly, he didn’t propose further protection measures for the permanence of Venezuelans in his country. Brazilian President Michel Temer also asked for a democratic solution, saying that “the OAS may use human rights protection instruments in Venezuela and recover a democratic solution.” Ecuadorian Vice-President María Alejandra Vicuña expressed her “great concern” for the diaspora and for the evidence of the crisis, but she merely asked international institutions to monitor the transparency of coming elections. Meanwhile, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández ratified his “firm stance” in favor of the Venezuelan people (?), hoping that peace and prosperity will “return to a country that has suffered so much.” Only Evo Morales defended Nicolás and urged the OAS to clarify: “either it is an organization of integration or an instrument of exclusion; either it respects the sovereignty of nations or it is a neocolonial puppet.” A statement that he celebrated yesterday in Miraflores alongside Nicolás.
The joint statement
Signed by Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and the United States, the statement condemns the severe crisis in Venezuela, setting a stance about “the persistent situation of breakdown of the constitutional order,” urging the Venezuelan government to call for elections “with the necessary guarantees for a free, fair, transparent and democratic process, without political prisoners.” They also ask specialized institutions and programmes of the United Nations System and the OAS “to immediately implement a program of humanitarian assistance,” restating the call for the government to “allow the access and distribution” of aid elements; only then will they “consider new measures to contribute to the full respect of its constitutional capacities in economy and finance.” They also call for the members of the international community to support the efforts to “contribute to the restitution of democracy in Venezuela,” requesting broader and stronger sanctions. The document doesn’t establish the consequences that the Venezuelan government will face if they hold the May 20 election or what does it mean for them to disavow the legitimacy of this election.
Nicolás said that the Summit of the Americas was a “complete failure” since it ended without an agreement about the demand to disregard May 20 elections. Before his colossal audience in the anti-imperialist march called yesterday to Miraflores, he cautioned about an alleged plan to sabotage the elections, with evidence that he’ll reveal in the next few days. As an incentive for anti-imperialism and the votes he needs, Nicolás approved resources for a new bonus — the Independence bonus — with 10 million carnets de la patria holders who will benefit from a Bs. 10 million deposit on April 19.
With a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, the Venezuelan government condemned the unilateral, “cruel and unjustified” attack carried out by the U.S., France and the United Kingdom against Syria, claiming that with this action, “they openly violate [the Syrian] sovereignty, the right to life and all human rights.” Fortunately, Al-Assad’s sarin gas doesn’t do that. “I wonder how much the bombing on the Syrian people yesterday costed. Who paid for it?” Nicolás said. I’d swear the three participant nations cleared that point already. Meanwhile, Diosdado Cabello claimed that Syria is “a world reference in bravery, just like Venezuela,” and added that the fight in Damascus and Caracas are linked because both nations are being attacked by other countries.
- National Assembly Speaker Omar Barboza announced that he suspended the meeting with the EU high representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, because of next Tuesday’s session, when lawmakers will discuss Nicolás’ preliminary hearing on merits.
- Lawmaker Julio Borges condemned the statements issued by Minister Vladimir Padrino López, who deemed the meeting held between Mike Pence and several dissidents as repugnant. Borges told the minister not to fear the measures against human rights abusers.
- The records of this Summit of the Americas will include the memorable moment when one of Evo Morales’ body guards punched a Bloomberg journalist on the nose for asking the president why he had attended the summit if Nicolás had been banned. That should’ve also been part of the toast in Miraflores. By the way, the U.S. offered to host the 9th Summit of the Americas in 2021.
Not many are pleased by the fact that allied nations have focused their concern on the need to open a humanitarian channel, but that’s what we got. So far, Brazil and Colombia have been effective at balancing the arrival of Venezuelans with the resources to attend them, but the legitimate fears for a more desperate diaspora with Nicolás’ potential “victory” intensifies in view of the lack of answers on how will the Venezuelan government be affected by the imposition of an illegitimate election.